This writer has known Paul Tei, at least on a professional level, for almost three years. This writer has chatted with him in half a dozen theater lobbies, written half a dozen plays about his work, and has watched him star in at least as many shows. But when the tattooed, pierced, spiky-haired, sandpaper-throated Tei appeared as the paunchy, smooth-talking, oily-voiced Southern snake-in-the-grass named Chaplain White in GableStage's springtime production of Defiance, it took this writer 20 minutes to recognize him. It was the most complete and realistic transformation of an actor into his subject to hit Miami in this or any recent year. The part didn't have a lot of weight — Chaplain White was too shallow a being to inspire any audience reaction more complex than dislike — but he was a marvel nevertheless: a perfect triumph of technique.

"As you know, it's been a really quiet week for me, so it's nice to get out on a Friday night." Thus began Alex Rodriguez's awkward attempt at a joke to make light of the fact that Sports Illustrated had broken the news about his use of performance-enhancing drugs just days earlier. A-Rod made the comment on the night he was honored by the University of Miami at the unveiling of the Alex Rodriguez Park in Coral Gables. Even before the report broke, Rodriquez had not been well liked outside of Miami. To us, he was the local kid from Westminster Christian High who grew up to become baseball's greatest player. To everyone else, he was the narcissistic Yankee who worried a little bit too much about his image.

Still, even throughout Major League Baseball's BALCO steroid scandal, where it was revealed that many players were juiced up, and throughout Congress's attempt at ousting the perpetrators, A-Rod was seen as the one clean guy — a natural, a player blessed with God-given abilities with no need for steroids or HGH. He even told Katie Couric on 60 Minutes point blank that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs. And we believed him. Sure Jose Canseco wrote that A-Rod was dirty in one of his books. But Canseco had long been a local pariah, so we ignored him. A-Rod, on the other hand, was a local golden boy. Not anymore. That's right. The craziest part about this whole scandal: Jose Canseco was right!

This award could easily have gone to a dozen other actors from Judas Iscariot, whose characters were as big, bright, and sharply drawn as only a three-hour play with an almost perfect cast can allow. But Lela Elam brought it with an intensity rare even for her (which is saying something), as she played both an eternally grieving mother and Saint Veronica. Her mother bit was moving, subtle, fragile, almost silent, but her Saint Veronica was another thing entirely. Veronica was the driving force of the play — an enactment of a long-overdue trial for Judas Iscariot, begun because Veronica believes Iscariot got a bad rap — and she was entirely credible: a personality of such blazing force that you figure, yeah, she could totally reverse a divine judgment. In a single breath, she was bawdy in an entirely 21st-century, hip-hop kind of way; hilarious; trenchant; and scary. It was a hard part that Elam handled with relish. An actress this good probably has a difficult time finding roles worth sinking her teeth into. Thank heavens for Guirgis.

Betrayed was a play about the Iraqis who dreamed of American rescue long before the War on Terror, who loved the West and studied Emily Brontë and watched English-language porn, who were neither Baathists nor especially religious. They were (little-l) liberals, (little-d) democrats, and arts lovers. In other words, they were people much like Antonio Amadeo, John Manzelli, and Ceci Fernandez, the actors who gave them life in Coral Gables. Watching them work, one could plainly see they felt the moral weight of their task: Their portrayals were dignified but not heroic, trenchant but not sappy. In the play, as in the war, these Anglophiles went to work as translators for the Coalition forces, becoming targets of violence in their own neighborhoods and, as the war went poorly, objects of suspicion in the Green Zone. Many were turned out, and many died. When Fernandez, Manzelli, and Amadeo assumed their roles, they spoke their convictions softly and accepted their fates stoically. It was a fitting memorial to those who didn't make it, and a moment of unexpected fraternity with those who wait to make it still.

Tania deLuzuriaga was mixed up with married school board dude Alberto Carvalho while covering school politics for the Miami Herald. Emails that proved the affair were leaked to the media, and our own Frank Alvarado released them to the public. They documented the sexual nature of deLuzuriaga and Carvalho's relationship and the conflict of interest it created in her reporting. When the news hit, deLuzuriaga was working as a general assignment reporter at the Boston Globe. She resigned amidst the hoopla and now works as a senior account executive at a PR firm in Boston. Whatever happened to Alberto Carvalho? Oh, he became school superintendent for Miami-Dade County. He's a politician, so we already knew he'd screw anybody over for his own benefit, but thanks to bad girl deLuzuriaga, we also know about his sexual proclivities.

He cut off one man's penis and left him for dead in a ditch. He poured molten plastic on another. He tore through Monrovia's trash-strewn dirt roads in a custom-made SUV with his despotic "Demon Forces" security team, beheading, shooting, and maiming anyone he wished.

Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr. was born in Boston and grew up in suburban Orlando, but in the end turned out to be cut from the same cloth as his dad, Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. And when Chuckie Taylor Jr.'s four-year reign of terror in his father's homeland ended in 2003, he tried to hide from justice in the United States, as so many other foreign war criminals had done before him.

Thanks to a Miami jury and an untested federal law, he failed. In January, Taylor became the first person convicted under a 1994 law prohibiting Americans from torturing abroad. He earned 97 years in prison for his crimes — and his conviction brought hope that someday warlords might stop looking to plush Miami waterfront homes as a safe haven to hide from their sins.

Joseph Adler is a big personality with a big voice, big hair, and a big heart. So Adding Machine must have been quite a trick for him. The musical, composed in 2008 by Joshua Schmidt and written by Schmidt and Jason Loewith, is a modernist horror story based on Elmer Rice's nearly forgotten 1927 play The Adding Machine. Its story follows the spiritual decay of a man who loses his job to a machine, just when he is on the verge of turning into a machine himself. The show is meant to summon the feel of an early 20th-century industrial utopia gone awry — a world of smokestacks and conveyor belts, of perfectly conditioned workers diligently plunking away for their pay and rations of leisure time. The individual is invisible in such a world, and for one and a half hours at Adler's GableStage, the personalities of all involved in Adding Machine's production were notable only by their absence. Adler and his cast hardened their hearts, stepped away from the footlights, and let us see the only personality that mattered in this context: the blind and hungry void of industry gone mad.

The same basic story of seven or so strangers picked to live in a house has been told now on MTV's Real World for 21 seasons and counting, but the format is getting a bit old. It's become a "watch hot kids get drunk and hook up show," which is only exciting to impressionable young teens who can't wait to get drunk and hook up on their own some day. So this year, MTV decided to switch things up for the Brooklyn season. Yeah, there were some drunk hookups, but more importantly there was the first transgendered housemate, an Iraq war vet, and JD Ordonez, a gay kid from Miami with an abusive father who put himself through school to become a dolphin trainer. Of course, JD's 15 minutes started ticking a little earlier than his housemates, as even before it was known he'd been cast in the show, gossip blogs were talking about a rumored relationship the kid had. We're not in the business of blind items here, but let's call the rumored ex Blanderson Pooper.

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre
Photo by Diego Pocovi

Costume quality, more than any other aspect of theater, is determined by money. If you've got a lot of it, you can dress your actors as cats, French aristocracy, Queen Elizabeth, or anything else. If you don't have any, you dress them in corduroy and denim. So let's take a moment to praise a decision that had almost nothing to do with money, though it was made in service of a production with plenty of money to throw around. To wit: to dress Shane R. Tanner in tights that were ever so slightly too small in Actors' Playhouse's wonderful 1776. The tights were a very light gray — under the lights, they became the color of an aviation cocktail — and if they didn't show absolutely everything as Tanner tromped angrily around the stage singing "Molasses to Rum," they showed enough. The man has beautiful thighs. His quads could crack a Brazil nut, and do unspeakably wonderful things to any softer-fleshed critter. His calves are constructed of the same curves and angles God first employed to create the hindquarters of a horse — sensuous, meaty, almost edible. You want to touch them. Or bite them. At the very least, you want to see them again.

HistoryMiami
Courtesy of HistoryMiami

Here's a fun game: Call Dr. Paul George, knowledge shah at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and mention any prominent local name, current or ancient, to him. Norman Braman. Julia Tuttle. Chief Neamathla. Al Capone. After George has finished explaining the intricacies of their personal stories and their relevance to the region, throw some historical developments at him. The Dade Massacre. The Cuban Missile Crisis. Interama. January 2, 1984, at the Orange Bowl. Commence jaw-dropping as he brings yesterday's Miami to highly detailed life with Rain Man-esque accuracy. But if you keep calling him, he's probably going to get annoyed — he ain't Miss Cleo. So sign up for one of Dr. George's countless tours, designed more for locals than tourists. Via walking, Metromover, boat, or bicycle, they cost from $20 to $44 and cover everything from local black history to famous criminals to the secrets of Miami City Cemetery. If you treasure Marley & Me as a South Florida period piece, it's time for a checkup with the doctor.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®